Whether you follow a strict workout routine or only lift occasionally, you’ll want to get enough protein to stay healthy and strong. Moreover, you need enough to fuel your workouts — regardless of how many you complete each week. Unfortunately, most men only consider meat when choosing protein sources. This option can be expensive, especially if you rely on steak as your main source.
Luckily, there are countless alternatives out there to help you build muscle without breaking the bank.
1. Peanut Butter
Get a little nutty and spread peanut butter on your toast tomorrow morning. This creamy spread packs eight grams of protein into a two-tablespoon serving and tastes terrific with smoothies, oatmeal, fruit and even vegetables like celery. Choose natural peanut butter and avoid ones with added sugars when you can. You might even switch to a healthier alternative like almond butter to better maintain your physique and physical fitness level.
At $2 or so a dozen, eggs pack a powerful punch of protein at an incredibly affordable price. One large egg contains about six grams of protein, with the eggwhite containing more protein and fewer calories. However, if you want to get your money’s worth, eat the whole egg. Add one to your sandwich, serve with hashbrowns and bacon or enjoy the hardboiled version as a snack.
3. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is a delicious, low-cost food that lends itself well to smoothies, fruit dips, parfaits, desserts and even tacos. It’s aso high in protein. In fact, one eight-ounce serving provides roughly 17 grams, which is a lot more than regular yogurt. When you go to pick out a container, look for brands that boast live and active cultures. This living bacteria is a probiotic that improves gut health, helping you lose weight and gain muscle simultaneously.
4. Sunflower Seeds
Most guys don’t picture tiny seeds when they picture protein. Yet, sunflower seeds are chock full of the stuff. These little guys pack six grams of protein per ounce and make a great topping on salads, Asian-inspired dishes, yogurt, oatmeal and many other foods. Most stores sell them for about $2 a pound, which will give you enough seeds to snack for weeks — if not months.
5. Black Beans
Most vegans and vegetarians know that legumes are the secret to a protein-rich diet. However, many people don’t realize how affordable black beans are. Most supermarkets sell an entire can for about a dollar and, with about 30 grams of protein in each one, that’s quite a steal. Black beans also contain fiber, which will keep you full between meals and keep your diet on track. Add a cup of these little beans to salads, rice dishes, casserole, tacos and more.
Sardines may not be the most popular food, especially among the particularly squeamish. However, these little guys are full of protein and relatively cheap. For just a few bucks, you can get a whole can and roughly 23 grams of protein. Sardines are also high in calcium, vitamin D and B12, helping you take a more holistic approach to your health. Add them to a salad, whisk a few into tomato sauce or use them to top a pizza.
7. Cottage Cheese
Just like yogurt, cottage cheese is a low-calorie dairy product that’s also cheap and high in protein. A single tub costs about $3 and can contain 50 grams of protein or more. Of course, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Cottage cheese contains high amounts of sodium, which can cause dehydration and inflammation, so moderation is key. Enjoy with fruit, applesauce, granola or even toast to get your daily protein intake.
Oats are hearty, healthy and filling. Plus, they’re super cheap and packed with protein. A one-pound container may only cost a few dollars, and each serving contains 13 grams of protein, making oats a worthwhile purchase for health nuts. Whip up a bowl of oatmeal each morning or toast some oats to use as granola for diet-conscious snacking. Their high fiber content will also keep you fuller longer, just like beans and yogurt.
A Smorgasbord of Options
Adding protein-rich foods to your diet doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. There’s a smorgasbord of options out there to suit everyone’s palate. Whether you enjoy seafood or would rather stick to a vegetarian diet, there are many alternatives to meat. You just have to know what to look for. The next time you head to the grocery store, add the foods above to your list to ensure you get enough protein and keep building your strength.